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Blog: Did Fairey Steal The Magic?

He may not owe AP anything, but that doesn't mean the image is his alone.

Amid the thicket of legal issues surrounding the recent Shepard Fairey/Associated Press dispute over rights to the iconic "Hope" image, I can't help but think that we seem to have missed a fairly simply point. Fairey may not owe the AP anything, but he certainly owes the photographer responsible for the image something. I'm not talking about a cut of the profits or shared ownership of the rights – just an acknowledgment of the artist who originally captured Obama in that moment.

When I finally saw the two images side by side – the photograph, taken by photographer Mannie Garcia and Fairey's subsequent interpretation of it – I was struck by how little the original had actually been altered. Though Fairey's attorney contends that Fairey only used the photo as a reference and transformed it into "a stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that created powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message," the transcendent solemnity that gives the image its power is fully evident in the original photograph.

Fairey may have had the vision to immortalize the image, but it was Garcia who had the prescience to immortalize the moment. Why did it take a lawsuit for this photograph and its provenance to become public knowledge? If Fairey's talent as an artist lies within his ability to abstract and idealize existing imagery, then why is he so unwilling to openly reference his sources? In this case, I think Fairey should have given credit where credit is due and that he should have done so long before lawyers became involved.

Feb 10, 2009: This post has been updated.

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72 comments on the article “Blog: Did Fairey Steal The Magic?”

Displaying 31 - 40 of 72

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Paul Beck

what about the use of recycled classic propaganda images to help elect a president. His images have a double meaning. Was he selected because of his manipulation techniques that attract youth to the product? At times I think he was used

Paul Beck

what about the use of recycled classic propaganda images to help elect a president. His images have a double meaning. Was he selected because of his manipulation techniques that attract youth to the product? At times I think he was used

lancewinston

Wow, I certainly enjoy the dialog generated by this article ... about the ever elusive answer to the timeless question, "What is art?" My definition for painting at least is that if I feel like I can paint it, it may be "ART" but not the kind of art that I appreciate. Or if it takes a basic knowledge of photoshop and a little taste for current color schemes, I tend to not be impressed either. But the Obama image is the most i've ever been moved by Fairey's work, and I don't understand why he wouldn't give some props to the photog who gave rise to his artwork. I remember being so annoyed by my now ex-wife when I took her to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh and she kept rushing me along and saying, "This is crap ... I can paint better than that ... what's so special about a fat asian guy?" (That was one of the many signs which should have told me to run for the hills) The fact is that they established a name and exceptional personality, and personality goes a long way...

lancewinston

Wow, I certainly enjoy the dialog generated by this article ... about the ever elusive answer to the timeless question, "What is art?" My definition for painting at least is that if I feel like I can paint it, it may be "ART" but not the kind of art that I appreciate. Or if it takes a basic knowledge of photoshop and a little taste for current color schemes, I tend to not be impressed either. But the Obama image is the most i've ever been moved by Fairey's work, and I don't understand why he wouldn't give some props to the photog who gave rise to his artwork. I remember being so annoyed by my now ex-wife when I took her to the Warhol museum in Pittsburgh and she kept rushing me along and saying, "This is crap ... I can paint better than that ... what's so special about a fat asian guy?" (That was one of the many signs which should have told me to run for the hills) The fact is that they established a name and exceptional personality, and personality goes a long way...

Brian

You can't own an image or an idea, they belong to society. The "hope" image needs "The Splasher" to wake up you ownership-obsessed "art" slaves. I'd like to thank Society for quotation marks and Adbusters.

Brian

You can't own an image or an idea, they belong to society. The "hope" image needs "The Splasher" to wake up you ownership-obsessed "art" slaves. I'd like to thank Society for quotation marks and Adbusters.

P R O P A G A N...

Obviously Fairey wasn't going to paint a picture of Obama, so he found a photo that was suitable and used it. This shouldn't be a news topic. http://propagandawerks.blogspot.com

P R O P A G A N...

Obviously Fairey wasn't going to paint a picture of Obama, so he found a photo that was suitable and used it. This shouldn't be a news topic. http://propagandawerks.blogspot.com

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